What it Is
new cars: 2008 Chevrolet HHR Panel SS Turbo Preview – No, it’s not alphabet soup to go. The 2008 Chevrolet HHR SS Turbo was introduced at the Woodward Dream Cruise as the newest member in the fabled, yet arguably somewhat diluted Super Sport (SS) family. However, Chevy has committed to only branding models with the SS badge that live up to its performance heritage, and the 260hp turbocharged 2.0-liter Ecotech engine seems to be a step in the right direction. Panel trucks have long been a favorite with classic truck lovers, so it only makes sense to carry on that love affair with an SS panel version of the HHR.
by Vernon Heywood
Photos Credit: Oliver Bentley
Why it Matters
With the Chevrolet HHR Panel SS Turbo, the Bowtie builder is taking advantage of an opportunity that Chrysler missed with its PT Cruiser, and maybe that’s because Chrysler never had a panel truck in its history. While the PT Cruiser looked like a ‘40s Ford, the Chevy HHR looks like a ‘40s Chevy. Not a big change in body style by any stretch of the means, but the SS version should be enough to milk the retro HHR even further than its chief competitor.
What’s Under the Hood
Utilizing the same drive train as the 2008 HHR SS, the Chevrolet HHR Panel SS Turbo comes with a 2.0-liter Ecotech engine that is turbocharged and intercooled and produces 260 hp. Those ponies come mated to a 5-speed manual transmission which combined with the Nurburgring-tuned FE5 sport suspension delivers .86 g of grip.
What it Looks Like
What makes the 2008 HHR SS different than an HHR is a different fascia, grille, rockers and a rear spoiler. What makes the Chevrolet HHR Panel SS Turbo different than the 2008 HHR SS is sheet metal instead of rear windows south of the B-pillar making it a little less family truckster and a little more high performance love machine. It can also be ordered with only the window between the C and D-pillar blocked out.
What Chevrolet Says
Ed Peper, Chevrolet general manager says, “With its muscular stance, turbocharged power and track-capable handling, the HHR SS is a worthy addition to SS lineup.” He also says, “It also reaffirms in a big way Chevy’s commitment to the sport compact market.” It seems the same should be true of the Chevrolet HHR Panel SS Turbo, but it’s hard to imagine a panel truck offering performance in areas like cornering. Only time behind the wheel will tell.
What We Think
Why not? It’s only a minor body change, Chevy should take advantage of both markets: nostalgia fans and performance. We only ask that the Chevrolet HHR SS Turbo Panel truly live up to the SS legend, not rest on the SS’s laurels. With less window weight and the mechanicals that go with them and a reinforced cargo floor, we see a better center of gravity that should improve handling. If this panel truck can deliver the performance that Chevy promises, then retro car fans and Chevy gear heads alike should find something to cheer about.